There are all kinds of good reasons to go a major trade show, like NPE2018 last month in Orlando, Fla. You see new technology and even some still undergoing beta testing — in other words, the new products of the near future.
That's what "Best Practices" is bringing you this month. Plastrac Inc., a maker of gravimetric and volumetric blending equipment, showed its new touch-screen controller at NPE.
Currier Plastics Inc., a custom injection molder based in Auburn, N.Y., is beta testing the controller. Currier is a progressive company that regularly issues news releases detailing its investments in machinery and local philanthropy. They've hosted second graders, for gosh sakes — talk about getting them while they're young!
Currier also exhibited at NPE2018, where company officials talked about how the molder is growing in the medical market, including a $10 million expansion project that will include a clean room.
The week after NPE, Currier again returned to the news release front, saying the company has agreed to beta test the new Plastrac controller. Currier Plant Manager Steve Salls worked with Eric Bullivant, Plastrac's vice president, to make it happen.
"We've used Plastrac color blending systems successfully for many years in our injection molding department," Salls said. "When I first took over the injection molding department several years ago, we were having trouble with the controllers."
Bullivant came to Currier Plastics and spent a day training employees on how to use the controllers and do troubleshooting.
"So our confidence level is high that we will continue to receive the same service," Salls said. "The new controller by design will make it so the material handlers and technicians will be able to set up and monitor the recipe and delivery of additives such as color or biomaterials much quicker and easier. So we're looking for any opportunity to run more efficiently."
Bullivant said training will be much easier this time, thanks to the new controller, which has a 7-inch touch-screen that graphically shows the blenders and is intuitive to use.
"For us, it's going to make life a dream," Bullivant said.
Setup parameters are viewed during operation and automatically stored. A full keyboard makes it easy to input the information. A thumb drive allows easy software updates, as well as the transfer of recipe files.
Salls said Currier will be able to capture any events of alarms with a real-time and day stamp.
Salls believes the new touc-screen controller — the first from Plastrac — will be a big improvement.
"We think we are going to enjoy having this new control platform on our floor," Salls said. "The current controller we use has 16 buttons and a two-line alphanumeric LCD display. Recipes and updates are via an RS232 serial port."
The close personal attention is not surprising. Plastrac is a family-owned company in Edgemont, Pa., near Philadelphia, founded in 1995 by Eric Bullivant's father, Ken Bullivant, a former K-Tron veteran who developed more than 20 patents for blending and weighing technology.
He saw big potential in disc feeder technology. And Plastrac's Auto-Disc systems have been a big seller. The company says Auto-Disc can be cleaned very quickly, giving fast color changes. Feeding modules can be switched out in seconds and easily replaced, so you can store expensive additives in their own feeding modules, available for immediate use.
Technology is great. But service and support are very important. The fact that Eric Bullivant traveled to Currier Plastics in the Finger Lakes region of New York, to help the molder better use Plastrac controllers before, played a big role in getting an important beta test site for the new controller in 2018.